I built my last computer a little over a year ago, and I tried to keep it within a tight budget. I reused an old Pentium-era IBM keyboard, and a bargain optical mouse (not too much excitement in the mouse/keyboard industry over the last decade). I selected a small form factor case from Shuttle, which freed up valuable desk real estate, but the keyboard and mouse took up quite a chunk of the desk. Real estate on my desk is almost as valuable as land in downtown Manhattan; it’s always at a premium.I view Logitech as the BMW of computer peripherals; premium products for the discriminating taste, with a hefty admission price. While I have tried “multimedia” keyboards before (and been less than impressed), this one takes the category further. The whole package comes in a black and dark gray color scheme accented by green and blue LEDs and silver buttons. It is very cool and ultramodern with a European flair. But design is only the extra touch. I will explain who can most benefit from this progressive hardware and why.
The product I am talking about is the Logitech diNovo Media Desktop. Di novo in science means to synthesize from the basic parts, and this is an apt description of this input system. There are four major hardware components to the system (all are wireless): the keyboard, the MediaPad, an optical mouse, and a hub. Also included was an AC adaptor, 6 AA Duracell batteries (4 for the keyboard, 2 for the MediaPad), 2 NIMH batteries (1800 mA) for the mouse, as well as a software package on CD. The package is made even sweeter with the inclusion of a five year warranty.
The setup went fairly smoothly, and took a little under one hour including software installation. An hour is a long time for a keyboard and mouse, but this is not your run-of-the-mill keyboard and mouse! I followed the setup poster as there was no printed manual (the interactive software does function as a manual, but I still prefer something to carry around and read when I have some time). I was a little apprehensive taking my old keyboard and mouse away, thinking “if there’s a problem, how would I recover the system with no working input device?” This theoretical concern quickly vanished as I proceeded.
The AC adapter connects to the USB connector which provides power to the Bluetooth hub (which is also the mouse charger – very cool). The hub is about the size of a Palm cradle and connects to the desktop via USB or a keyboard ps/2 connection. With batteries installed in all the devices, I powered up the whole system. The mouse worked right away, however the keyboard did not. After noticing and depressing a ‘connect’ button on the bottom of the keyboard and a similar button on the wireless hub, the keyboard worked as well. A similar procedure got the MediaPad working. The same connection step is also shown under each of the three components. Interestingly, the setup poster, which detailed the battery installation, did not list this step, but did place it on the reverse side as a “solving setup problems” procedure. With a working keyboard and mouse, I continued on to install the software.
The software is called SetPoint (version 1.05b): Logitech diNovo Media Desktop which is designed for Microsoft Windows XP and 2000 only; older operating systems and Mac users are out of luck. As the software is installing on your PC, each part verifies its connection to the wireless hub to ensure secure communications. It reportedly uses 128-bit encryption across 70 frequencies, and as long as you don’t work at the CIA, this should be adequate. The software includes optional installation of Windows Media Player 9, and a Bluetooth phone utility. It also asks which media player you wish to use by default; I selected Winamp 5.08C which I favor for music files.
While I have heard about Bluetooth for several years, this is the first Bluetooth device I have owned. Bluetooth is supposed to have a 10 meter range, I had at least that, and that was through interior walls. The Bluetooth hub is designed to act as a wireless hub for other Bluetooth peripherals, an added function of the whole system. There is a utility included in the software to set up other Bluetooth devices (up to seven can be connected to the hub). The hub holds the mouse when not in use and charges it through direct (probably gold plated) contacts. As a nice touch, when the mouse needs charging, its LED glows red. When placed in the cradle the same LED flashes green, and then glows a steady green for five minutes before turning off. The same LED flashing red, and then green reminds me of the two color LED on a LiteOn optical drive – always very cool.
The mouse supplied is the Logitech Mx 900 Bluetooth optical mouse. The mouse alone retails for $100 with the Bluetooth Wireless Hub. The included mouse is clearly made for right handed computer users. It has just the right amount of weight to it to impart a sense that it is finely crafted. It tracks just fine across just about every surface except a piece of glass (I still suggest using a conventional mouse pad to save your desktop surface though).The mouse also features a rubberized scroll wheel, and there are two scroll buttons to facilitate scrolling through very long documents. Near where the thumb rests, there are two shortcut buttons that correspond to the forward and backward buttons on a browser. The final button sits on top and when pressed brings up the “Logitech Quick Switch Program Selector.” This handy feature allows one to the quickly select between open windows on the desktop. Ergonomically, the mouse fits very well in my right hand. For those of us that spend more than a little amount of time with their computer, a comfortable mouse is a necessity, and in my opinion, this one fits the bill for the vast majority of users.
The next component in the system is the Bluetooth keyboard. The keyboard features a zero degree tilt design, as well as some additional keys. The flatness of the design and the slightly less key travel gives this the feel of a notebook keyboard (except it doesn’t sag in the middle). Even the rarely used “F” keys across the top are given the half size design similar to many notebook keyboards. For the “two finger typist” this works well, and is equally comfortable for standard typing technique. The keys have a dulled “clack” to them which provides good feedback and is reassuring as well. There are also some additional keys on the keyboard which stand out because of their silver color.
In the upper left there are shortcut keys for opening your internet browser to its home page, opening Outlook, and initiating a web search. In the upper right side there are short cut keys to control volume output. These functioned very well on my system and saved the need to redo the master volume when switching programs (thereby fixing a bug!). The final set of additional keys is the media launcher button, and controls to play/pause, forward, reverse, and stop to control music or video playback. The same control is duplicated on the MediaPad. Finally, when the Caps Lock key gets depressed, it gets displayed in bright green on the computer monitor. I think all keyboards should have this feature, rather than some tiny LED you don’t notice until 10 characters are capitalized. While the keyboard does not have a wrist rest, it does have two flip up spots to give it some angle. I found it more comfortable that way. After a few minutes, I was comfortable with the keyboard, and the old IBM was on its way down to the basement for storage.
I have saved the best component for last. The MediaPad: Bluetooth Remote Commander. This is a separate wireless Bluetooth component which at first appears to be the numeric keypad to the keyboard. While at first I was disappointed there was no way to lock it onto the keyboard to make one component out of the two, after playing with the MediaPad, I was duly impressed. It features a black and white LED display above the keys which displays the date and time – even with the computer powered off. Along the right side are volume controls, and the media launcher and controls, similar to the keyboard. But they act a little differently.
When used to control Windows Media Player 9, both the title and artist information were displayed on the LED screen which was quite amazing. Unfortunately, this did not work in MusicMatch, nor in Winamp. However, all three players could be controlled in terms of play, stop, forward, etc. An additional feature is that the MediaPad can be put into calculator mode, even when the PC is off. After all, even though we have a computer with a bajigahertz processor, many of us keep a calculator handy for quick math needs. The answers are displayed on the LED readout, and can easily be cut and pasted into on screen applications such as Excel. The third mode for the MediaPad is used to navigate the Logitech Quick Media Launcher. When used this way, it becomes a remote control to navigate music, picture, and video files stored in appropriate My Documents folders. This is ideal for a home built media center pc by adding some of the features of a Windows Media Center Edition.
Overall, I am very pleased with the diNovo system from Logitech. It is probably the most advanced wireless keyboard and mouse combination made today. Frankly, I haven’t had the opportunity to try out many others, but there is a lot of evidence to back the statement up. This is the top of the line from Logitech, and better than anything from Microsoft. Very few other units use Bluetooth with its extended range, frequency hopping technology, and ability to connect with other devices. Most use RF wireless which is limited to keyboard/mice. In addition, this is the only keyboard with a separate MediaPad and display.
I really had to get down to a fine detail level to even find a fault with it. The only drawbacks I have (and they are minor, at best) are:
- Long setup with “connect” not a separate step
- Number of batteries to power device
- Need to keep powered to keep mouse charged
I think this is the first of many trouble free Bluetooth peripherals I hope to enjoy over the next several years. If my old reliable keyboard is a Bic, the diNovo is a Mach3 Turbo!. Both will do the job, but this is definitely the way to compute with a balance of style and performance.Finally, who should actually buy this? I’ll take a look at who I think can most benefit from this great hardware and justify the $249 admission price. After all, this is a premium product, and not for cash strapped budget pc user.
- Power users who are comfortable building their own PCs.
This is an ideal choice for a home-built media center pc and is designed with that user in mind. With its wireless range and MediaPad it is a great choice, and with its slick design it fits in well in a living room, den, or dorm. With the Media Desktop software designed for distance use, a user would not miss the “real” Windows Media Center Edition which is not available to install on a home built pc.
- Computer users looking to clean up the clutter.
Another potential user is the business executive who wants fewer wires on his or her desk, and who wishes to impress his or her colleagues who have already seen the 21″ LCD flatpanel monitor. Also, when not working with the computer, the keyboard and MediaPad can be placed elsewhere to free up valuable desk space for that “big project.” Having other Bluetooth peripherals to connect and not needing a separate hub increases the functionality of the product.
- A number-cruncher
An accountant would utilize the calculator functions of the MediaPad, which would make the system worth the price tag in increased productivity over time. Besides, the MediaPad looks way cooler on a desk than any calculator.
Finally, there’s always the gift for the “Live Digitally” user who seems to already have everything. Trust me they’ll be impressed.